Posted: Jan. 26, 2010
Natural ingredients and fun designs are a recipe for success in the boutique bakery sector.
By Cheryl Reeves
Whether pet boutique owners are baking up a storm in their own on-site kitchens or ordering in from an increasing number of pup pastry-producing manufacturers, the pet bakery business is definitely a trend that’s generating the sweet smell of success.
From carob-chip cookies and canine cannolis to hand-decorated artisan truffles and yogurt-frosted doughnuts, many boutiques offer an array of drool-worthy pastry choices for their customers’ pampered dogs.
Apparently, even budget-minded pet parents are splurging on yummy, affordable luxuries for their four-legged best buddies. Retailers report that bakery sales are strong even in a challenging economy. Dog delicacies have come a long way from simple treats to include endless arrangements of creative confections.
|Many boutiques are generating repeat business from in-store pet baked-goods sales.Courtesy of D.O.G. Bakery|
Ginger MacCutcheon, owner of The Ginger Pet House in Independence, Ohio, said her bakery business is so popular that people come in with their dogs every day to see what’s new. She also keeps a tempting basket of sample treats outside her store’s door.
“There are an incredible number of dogs in the area, and it gets very busy every single day,” MacCutcheon said. “I bake a few simple treats at home and then add to my baked goods inventory by ordering in from a manufacturer. I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the demand by baking everything myself—especially during the holidays. And you don’t want to disappoint anyone by running out of goodies.”
Manufacturers such as The Preppy Puppy Bakery in Wareham, Mass., pick up the slack for retailers who need to focus on the business of selling rather than baking. The Preppy Puppy Bakery ships on orders within 48 hours to ensure freshness.
“If you don’t have the production facilities in your store to keep up with demand for pet baked goods, you can bake a few signature treats and then use a manufacturer to supplement inventory,” said Amy Siangelais, the company’s owner. She added that, out of the 195 bakery items The Preppy Puppy makes, 60 percent are seasonal, with Easter and Christmas treats reigning in popularity.
While many treat companies cater to retailers’ needs, some store owners prefer to bake their own treats. Case in point: A whiff of the delicacies wafting from the bakery at the Woofles Barking Boutique in Victoria British Columbia, Canada, brings customers and their dogs trotting into the store, especially on the weekends. Royanne Powell, the store’s owner, said her most popular treat is the signature “Woofles,” a waffle-like dessert made in three flavors: chicken and sweet potato, apple cinnamon, and peanut butter and banana.
“The bakery side of things is a lot of hard work, but, in the end, it can truly pay off in bringing back repeat business,” said Powell, who bought her business 10 years ago. “It was a full bakery from day one, and it is still going strong.”
Kathy Ahearn, owner of Four Your Paws Only in North Conway, N.H., also has included a bakery in her store for the past 10 years. The store recently moved to a new location, where Ahearn incorporated a new working bakery. She also orders goods from two private bakers. She said her bakery is positioned in the center of the store and the display case faces the door so customers are easily drawn in to see what’s new.
“Adding the pet bakery to our store is one of the best things we’ve ever done,” Ahearn said. “It allows us to bake the treats in the store while customers are shopping. It smells good, it looks good, and the customers and their dogs love it.”
“It’s hard to say which is the most popular bakery treat because they all do very well, but if I had to choose I guess I would say our cannoli. And our ice cream-shaped cookie does very well in the summer.”
—Kathy Ahearn, owner of For Your Paws Only, North Conway, N.H.
“It’s absolutely imperative that we continually provide our customers with something they haven’t seen before—something that makes them glad they made the trip.”
— Karry Barolo, owner, of D.O.G. Bakery, Traverse City, Mich.
“We have many sales aids to help our customers: literature, signs and displays. But nothing works like the excitement the local staff can generate by giving their customers a little piece of joy. The pet parent walks away with something fun and exciting, and finds joy in being able to give their faithful friend something really good.”
—Debbie Bohlken, president of Claudia’s Canine Cuisine, Maumelle, Ark.
To be competitive in the canine bakery business, retailers must watch the human trend market. Increasingly, customers are trending more toward sophisticatedly produced and designed baked goods that are healthier for their pets. And more and more pet owners are scanning labels with a critical eye for all-natural ingredients, especially after the pet food recalls in 2007.
“Human trends become pet trends within a year,” said Debbie Bohlken, president of Claudia’s Canine Cuisine, a manufacturer in Maumelle, Ark. “For 2010, we see the trend as less ingredients, more health-valued products, more ‘back to basics.’”
She added that, “In the 12-plus years that I have been in the pet bakery business, I have seen this market come of age. Where once a simple bone-shaped treat was the norm, now we are moving to look much like the pastries found in a true French bakery.”
Just as much thought is going into the ingredients as well. Decadence aside, the majority of the business’ baked goods are made without processed wheat, corn or soy because so many dogs are increasingly allergy-prone. Instead, plain and simple ingredients such as apples, blueberries, peanut butter, whey protein and carob are in higher demand, making the difference in taste, smell and health.
At Petit Four Legs, a manufacturer in Seattle, the rule is high-quality ingredients and handmade design.
“We get all our ingredients from local, family-owned farms,” said Jennifer Lewis, the company’s head chef. “When people ask about the source of our ingredients, I can say that I know the farmer. They appreciate that.”
The extra attention to design and healthful ingredients is paying off, as pet parents increasingly find these canine convections irresistible.
Karry Barolo, owner of the D.O.G. Bakery in Traverse City, Mich., reported that bakery sales have steadily increased since her store opened in 2004, and sales are up 9 percent so far this year. She added that, although her store offers pet supplies, the main focus is always the bakery.
Other ideas for selling treats include making gift baskets and carrying quick and easy mixes that pet parents can bake at home. Petit Four Legs offers a cupcake mix that comes with frosting and decorations. Claudia’s Canine Cuisine offers a microwavable canine cake complete with bowl, cake and icing mix. MacCutcheon gets extra creative at The Ginger Pet House during the holidays. For Easter, she puts together baskets filled with cookies and pastries shaped like rabbits, eggs and chicks.
Retailers and manufacturers alike recommend baking to one’s target market.
“We see differences in what sells best on a metro versus rural area,” Bohlken said, finding that metro stores do better with upscale, highly decorated cookies and biscotti, while rural areas go for bone-shaped dipped cookies and bulk treats.
“At the end of the day, a treat is a reward,” she added. “And if the rewarded pet likes it, it becomes popular.” <HOME>
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